Getting started with game development on Solana

The gaming space in the Solana ecosystem is expanding rapidly. Integrating with Solana can provide numerous benefits for games, such as enabling players to own and trade their assets (via NFTs in games), building an open and composable in-game economy (using various DeFi protocols), creating composable game programs, and allowing players to compete for valuable assets.

Solana is nearly purpose-built for games. With its 400ms block time and lightning-fast confirmations: it's a real-time database that is accessible for all. It's especially perfect for genres like strategy games, city builders, turn-based games, and more.

With extremely cheap transaction fees, smaller integrations using NFTs that represent game items or achievements, or that use USDC micro payments for in game items can be done easily. There are already many tools and SDKs available to start building these types of on-chain interactions today, using many of the game development frameworks that you know and love.

You can build your game in JavaScript and Canvas, Phaser, Turbo Rust, or use one of the Solana Game SDKs for the three biggest game engines - UnitySDK, UnrealSDK, and Godot. Find a list of all gaming SDKs here: Game SDKs.

What are the benefits of building games on Solana? #

  1. No user management: players can use their Solana wallet to authenticate themselves in the game.
  2. No server costs: Solana is a decentralized network, so you don't need to pay for additional backed servers.
  3. No running costs for your program. You can even close the program to get the SOL back.
  4. The ability to reward players for great achievements or let them play against each other for assets with real value outside the game.
  5. The ability to permissionlessly use all of the other programs deployed on Solana, like decentralized exchanges, NFT marketplaces, lending protocols, high score programs, loyalty/referral programs, and more.
  6. The ability to write your own onchain programs. If some game functionality you want does not already exist, you can always write and deploy your own custom onchain program.
  7. Platform independent payments, for all browsers, Android/iOS, and any other platform - as long as the players can sign a transaction they can buy assets.
  8. No 30% fee that Apple and Google take for in-app purchases by deploying directly to the Saga dApp store.

How to integrate Solana into your game? #

  1. Give players digital collectibles for in-game items or use them as characters. See NFTs in games
  2. Use tokens for in-app purchases or micro-payments in the game. See Using tokens in games
  3. Use the player's wallet to authenticate them in the game using the Solana Wallet Adapter framework
  4. Run tournaments and pay out crypto rewards to your players.
  5. Develop the game entirely on-chain to:
    • reward your players in every step they take
    • allow any game/app/device to connect with your game
    • enact governance for the game's future
    • ledger verifiable activity for anti-cheat systems

See our Solana games "Hello world" for a detailed guide on how to get started with building games on Solana.

Game SDKs #

With all these benefits, Solana is quickly becoming the go-to platform for game developers. Get started today by first picking your favorite gaming SDK:

Unity SDKC#
Godot SDKGD script and C++
Solana GameShiftRestAPI
Honeycomb ProtocolRust and JavaScript
Unreal SDKsC++, C#, Blueprints
Next js, React, AnchorRust/Anchor, JavaScript, C#, NextJS
PhaserHTML5, JavaScript
Native C#C#

Game Distribution #

Distribution of your game depends highly on the platform you are using. With Solana, there are game SDKs you can build for iOS, Android, Web and Native Windows or Mac. Using the Unity SDK you could even connect Nintendo Switch or XBox to Solana theoretically. Many game companies are pivoting to a mobile first approach because there are so many people with mobile phones in the world. Mobile comes with its own complications though, so you should pick what fits best to your game.

Solana has a distinct edge over other blockchain platforms due to its offering of a crypto-native mobile phone from Solana Mobile, named Saga. The Android based Saga phone comes equipped with an innovative dApps store that enables the distribution of crypto games without the limitations imposed by conventional app stores, including those from Google or Apple.

Publishing Platforms #

Platforms where you can host and/or publish your games:

FractalA game publishing platform that supports Solana and Ethereum. They also have their own wallet and account handling and there is an SDK for high scores and tournaments.
Solana mobile dApp StoreThe Solana alternative to Google Play and the Apple App Store. A crypto first variant of a dApp store, which is open source free for everyone to use. See(video walkthrough)
Apple App StoreThe Apple app store has a high reach and is trusted by its customers. The entrance barrier for crypto games is high though. The rules are very strict for everything that tries to circumvent the fees that Apple takes for in app purchases. A soon as an NFT provides benefits for the player for example Apple requires you for example to have them purchased via their in app purchase system.
Google Play StoreGoogle is much more crypto friendly and games with NFTs and wallet deep links for example have had a track record of being approved for the official Play Store.
xNFT BackpackBackpack is a Solana wallet which allows you to release apps as xNFTs. They appear in the user's wallet as soon as they purchase them as applications. The Unity SDK has a xNFT export and any other web app can be published as xNFT as well.
Elixir GamesElixir Games is a platform that focuses on blockchain-based games. They support a variety of blockchain technologies and offer a platform for developers to publish their games.
Self HostingJust host your game yourself. For example, using Vercel which can be easily setup so that a new version get deployed as soon as you push to your repository. Other options are GitHub pages or Google Firebase but there are many more.

Next Steps #

If you would like to learn more about developing games on Solana, take a look at these developer resources and guides: